PANNA: US leaves Chemical Safety Forum; Endocrine disruptors in Arctic; UN declares Indigenous rights; Organic food may cost les
A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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September 20 , 2007
U.S. withdraws from Forum on Chemical Safety: "I am writing to inform you that the United States is withdrawing from participation in the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety," Daniel T. Fantozzi, director of the State Department's Office of Environmental Policy informed the UN body's secretariat on Sept. 12. The Forum is a unique body in which NGO experts can participate fully with governments and industry in discussions of international chemical policy issues and priorities. Over the years, discussions at the Forum have led to major changes in international approaches to chemicals, including development of the Stockholm Convention (POPs Treaty), safety guidance for agricultural workers and other global initiatives for voluntary and binding codes to protect public health and curb hazardous chemical poisons. An anonymous source at the State Department explained that the U.S. has "limited resources" and will focus instead on the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management. "This is yet another signal of the Bush Administration's strategy to undermine participation of public interest groups in policy discussions, and of its disregard for international efforts promoting public health," said Kristin Schafer, PANNA's Campaigns Director and veteran of work with the UN Forum. Click for details.
Chemicals influencing gender balance in Arctic: Arctic Assessment and Monitoring Programme scientists have concluded that synthetic bioaccumulative chemicals in the environment are influencing a change in gender birth ratios in the Arctic region. Two girls are born for every boy in communities located in the northern latitudes, where long-lasting chemicals tend to accumulate, drifting on wind and water currents from the south. The Guardian UK reports, "The scientists measured the man-made chemicals in women's blood that mimic human hormones and concluded that they were capable of triggering changes in the sex of unborn children in the first three weeks of gestation. The chemicals are carried in the mother's bloodstream through the placenta to the fetus, switching hormones to create girl children." Dr Lars-Otto Reierson told the Guardian that the "accumulation of DDT, PCBs, flame-retardants and other endocrine disrupters has been known for some time and young women had been advised to avoid eating some Arctic animals to avoid excess contamination and possible damage to their unborn children."
High levels of DDT found in birds: A Spanish research team discovered "unexpected" high levels of DDE (the breakdown product of DDT) in declining Red Kite populations in the Doñana National Park in southwestern Spain. They examined the organochlorine levels in the birds from 1999 -- 2001 and report that half of the egg samples studied "showed DDE levels above those associated with reproductive impairment in other raptor species." PCB levels were also above levels known to reduce hatching rates, and both chemicals were found in concentrations showing an increase of an order of magnitude compared with data collected in the 1980s. The scientists call for investigations to identify potential sources of the contamination, and further studies to "find out if organochlorine contamination is present in other predator species in the area, as well as their potential health effects on individuals and/or populations." The study was published in Environment International. Read the abstract. To find out more about DDT's impact on the environment and human health, as well as PANNA's work to reduce reliance on DDT for malaria control, click here.
New report critiques Wal-Mart's sustainability promises: The Big Box Collaborative -- more than twenty labor, environment, public health, and sustainable community advocacy organizations -- compared Wal-Mart's promises to work toward sustainability with the retail giant's actions. Wal-Mart's Sustainability Initiative: A Civil Society Critique reports that Wal-Mart mislabels food produced with pesticides as organic and engages in other fraudulent and environmentally and socially harmful practices. The study "highlights the massive impacts Wal-Mart continues to have on the environment, on communities, and on workers. It shows what these impacts mean for people and places close to home and around the globe. And it begs a critical question: If Wal-Mart is truly committed to reducing these impacts, why is it failing to take so many of the most obvious and concrete steps toward accomplishing that goal?"
Nevada stores caught selling banned pesticides: Associated Press reports that HFI Enterprises based in Fallon and Lovelock, Nevada were fined by EPA for selling the restricted use pesticides chlorpyrifos and diazinon. Both chemicals are organophosphates and nervous system toxins that are especially hazardous for pregnant women and children. Recently, a True Value hardware store in Reno was caught selling a product containing chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos is banned for residential use, and many public health professionals, farmworkers, and environmental organizations are working to ban chlorpyrifos for use in agriculture as well. Find out how you can take action to help complete the ban on chlorpyrifos.
United Nations adopts Indigenous rights declaration: The UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of Indigenous Rights last week. A UN news advisory reports, "[the] Declaration addresses both individual and collective rights, cultural rights and identity, rights to education, health, employment, language and others. It outlaws discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them. It also ensures their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic, social and cultural development." Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Kankana-ey Igorot from the Cordillera Region in the Philippines, and Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, addressed the UN on Sept. 13: "The challenge to ensure the respect, protection and fulfillment of Indigenous Peoples Rights has just begun. We foresee that there will be great difficulties in implementing this Declaration because of lack of political will on the part of the governments, lack of resources and because of the vested interests of rich and powerful. However, we will be counting on the continuing good faith shown by States today who voted for the adoption of the Declaration. We will be counting on the United Nations System to help implement the Declaration," Read her entire statement.
Organic food may be less expensive: Liana Hoodes works for the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and has grown food organically in the Hudson Valley (New York) for well over 20 years. She responded to a recent syndicated news column that dismissed the value of purchasing organically grown food. Writing in the Times Herald-Record, Hoodes explained "Recent long-term studies at the Rodale Institute have shown that organic soils are more resistant to both drought and floods, and yields in most products are equal or better in organic. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that worldwide average yield of all organic products are 130 percent that of conventional. A recent UNFAO symposium suggests that organic agriculture may indeed help feed the world, through efficient energy use, lower inputs, and greater diversity... Given these facts, a true cost-benefit analysis -- where all the costs of our food are taken into account -- may find organic the least expensive alternative." See related study on organic farming yields in developing countries, PANUPS, July 19, 2007.
Rachel Carson on Moyers Journal: The Friday, Sept. 21 edition of Bill Moyers Journal (check your local PBS television listings) focuses on the life and legacy of U.S. scientist Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, with veteran stage actor Kaiulani Lee, whose one woman play, A Sense of Wonder, has been the centerpiece of regional and national conferences on conservation, education, journalism, and the environment for more than ten years.